Pop with pedigree


Hot on the trails of that charming debut EP by the Radiophonic Tuckshop I recently wrote about comes another wonderful debut EP by a band called Magpie.
And just like with the Tuckshop, the members of Magpie have been around the block before. Half of the band, Andy Morten and Mike Poulson, started playing together in the Nerve as far back as the early 90s. They then formed Bronco Bullfrog and put out a smashing debut album in 1998.
Bronco Bullfrog has been an on and off affair since then and to keep busy Andy also released a little gem of a solo album under the very psychedelic 60s influenced moniker Campbell Stokes Sunshine Recorder in 2009.

Andy Morten has penned three of the four tracks here and they very much reflect his encyclopaedic knowledge gained from penning everything from Shindig! Magazine articles to innumerable 60s psych reissue CD sleeves.

But for good or bad, those who discover Magpie will mostly be power pop aficionados. Yet this isn’t power pop. After all, what is powerful with lines like:

“Well, my clothes are getting dirty
and my shoes are full of holes
and my hair is lank and greasy
and I’m feeling much too old”

Nothing, really!

Instead, this is pop music that has so much confidence in itself it doesn’t need to resort to power to get the point across. In the sense that it references the forgotten pop geniuses instead of those 60s pop giants everyone knows, I would rather call this deep pop.

And given the slight country feel to these tracks, the deep pop reference here is definitely the Honeybus (with whom Any Morten once played a reunion concert…)

If you don’t know the Honeybus, your first priority should be to change that. But if you do, then this Magpie EP is absolutely something you want.

Secret Canterbury signals

secret signals

Common among the groups belonging to the so-called Canterbury scene in the early 70s was that they made music that seemed a bit haphazard and self-effacing, with lots of humour and a bit of friendly insanity for good measure, yet was simultaneously complex, inventive and often heavily constructed.

One of the few American bands with a strong Canterbury influence were the Muffins. They also displayed a very English-sounding lightness of touch that you do not easily find in American music.
And that is why listening to the newly reissued and previously tape-only “Secret Signals 1” is such a joy.

Here we meet up with the Muffins four years before their masterly Manna/Mirage debut. We have been there before, on the other mid 70s Muffins compilation “Chronometers” with which this shares several tracks – although the versions presented here seem a bit rougher and with more of a live feel.

The Canterbury jazz vibe is strong in these early recordings. And the humour is so disarmingly awkward it indeed manages to become a satisfyingly American counterpart to the Monty Pythonesque originals it seeks to emulate.
Maybe due to the fact that much of this release was originally designed as a reel-to-reel album, titled “Agar Squid,” it actually works as one. It isn’t as top heavy as the already mentioned “Chronometer” compilation, and although it might not quite live up to the quality of that release, the tracks are very nicely sequenced. For example, if you manage to endure the opening track, you can almost feel your soul lift as that is followed by the soothing “Brix.”

The fact that that the Muffins were already this incredibly close in the 1974-76 time frame to what their Canterbury counterparts were doing speaks volumes. There is synchronicity at play here, not just influence.
Still, you can not help but smile when you hear a track like “English” with its spoken “It’s time for tea” pronounced in such a distinct American accent that you are immediately convinced these guys never had afternoon tea.

All in all, an incredibly satisfying listen and one of the key reissues of 2017. Although I have never heard the original tape releases, there were two more in the same series, and they are also planned for CD reissue. Let us hope that they will be as great as this one!


Radiophonic Tuckshop


Here’s yet another essential release involving Joe Kane.

“Running Commentary” might be the Radiophonic Tuckshop’s debut EP – but the no-holds-barred signature garage pop sound is easily recognizable from the Dr Cosmo’s Tape Lab albums, the absolutely fabulous “Watermelon” album with The Owsley Sunshine as well as from Joe Kane’s solo work.

Whereas Dr Cosmo’s Tape Lab is a duo with the inimitable Stuart Kidd (check him out!), this time round the setup is a full band. And that band includes another hero of mine, Paul Kelly from the Martial Arts and, more recently, How To Swim.

Compared to some of the references I have peppered this short text with already, the focus here is clearly on the straightforward pop side of things. Experiments, silly interludes, concept suites, and even radiophonic sounds of the kind served up on the latest (but I sincerely hope not last!) Dr Cosmo’s Tabe Lab release “Super Chrome Class” are conspicuously absent.

“The Radiophonic Tuck Shop” was originally a Chuck Berry tribute song done by Joe together with Nic Denholm, but it seems that now the time has come to take the pop confectionery approach a step further.
Indeed, the melodies on offer here are straight from silly pop heaven. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face.


Konstpop med substans


Året var 2011 och jag var ganska ny användare av Bandcamp. Där snubblade jag på “The Strange Uses of Ox Gall” släppt i endast 150 ex, av Huw Gwynfryn Evans aka H Hawkline.

Hans musik var bakvänd och klurig, lite som Kevin Ayers, men också med deadpan-sång och och en levnadströtthet som var mer postpunk. Även om poplåtarna var bra kunde Huw när som helst ge sig iväg på ett konstigt experiment som om han inte brydde sig. En charmig kuf.

Jag har följt hans karriär sen dess. Länge kändes det som om (dåvarande) flickvännen Cate Le Bon gjorde allt rätt och Huw bara strulade till det, men skenet kan bedra. Hans senaste skiva är i princip helt fri från strul och har snurrat på skivtallriken hela sommaren. Den heter “I Romanticize” och släpps i betydligt fler exemplar än 150. Det förtjänar den. Trots att experimenten tonats ner är den långt från mainstream; istället känns den som ett destillat av Huws udda popsensibilitet som hela tiden funnits där.

Konstpop med substans. Ett absolut måste i skivsamlingen.